Projects planned for Rainy River watershed

While dozens of anglers were looking for fish in the Rainy River last week during the inaugural Emo Walleye Classic, Martin Nantel was busy looking for information gaps about the river and its tributaries.
Nantel, head of the Rainy River First Nations Watershed program, spoke of the importance of identifying key fisheries resource issues in the Rainy River watershed.
“We’ll be conducting a gap analysis by sitting down with all our agencies, municipalities, NGOs [non-governmental organizations], and First Nations in the community here and figure out what is known about the watershed and what is not known,” Nantel said.
“We’ve already done part of it. [Now] we have developed four projects that we’re going to be doing this summer,” he added.
The first project is a habitat inventory and impact assessment on the riparian (riverbank) areas of the Rainy River and the five major tributaries on the Canadian side.
The second study is on juvenile sturgeon habitat.
“There are things known about spawning and older fish,” Nantel said. “Not a lot was known about immature sturgeon. We’re going to document that.
“In fact, [on Monday] night, [we] went out to look for immature sturgeon.”
The third project is a low-flow, quality monitoring project on the tributaries (this is normally done on the Rainy River). And lastly, they will conduct a fish contaminant sampling on the river, including for mercury and pesticides.
The total budget of the projects is almost $367,000.
“After that, we’ll come up with a prioritized framework that will allow us to address issues based on the importance and priorities we’ve attached,” Nantel said.
“And, obviously, throughout the process, it allows us to gain additional fishery knowledge and traditional knowledge, too.
“Both scientific and traditional knowledge that will give us a better understanding of aquatic ecology in the management of the watershed,” he stressed.
The projects involve a coalition of partners, led by Rainy River First Nations, to accomplish three key objectives:
•to identify knowledge gaps and set strategic priorities for management of the fisheries resources of the Rainy River and its tributaries on an ecologically-sound basis;
•to develop a stewardship framework model for managing natural resources of the Rainy River watershed; and
•to gather additional fisheries resource information based on traditional knowledge and innovative scientific approaches that will advance the understanding of aquatic ecology, as well as additional science and management needs in the watershed.
A formal announcement of the projects will take place June 21 (national Aboriginal Day). They’ll be hiring two people to work on them this week and one or two more in the coming weeks.
Some of the funding has been approved through “Ontario’s Living Legacy” Trust Fund.